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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan’s father will live on through the many colorful stories about his life

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Butch and Bo Ryan after Wisconsin upset Illinois during the 2001-02 season (AP)

It's not hard to figure out where Bo Ryan acquired his fighting spirit, passion for teaching or love for sports.

The Wisconsin coach inherited it from his father, William Francis "Butch" Ryan, a retired pipe fitter, decorated World War II hero and founder of a Pennsylvania youth basketball league for under-privileged kids.

Butch Ryan died early Friday morning in Fort Meyers, Fla. at age 89. Wisconsin associate head coach Greg Gard told the Wisconsin State Journal Bo Ryan rushed back to Fort Meyers to be by his father's side after receiving a phone call Wednesday during a Coaches vs. Cancer golf outing that his father's health had taken a turn for the worse.

The elder Ryan's death comes only eight months after Bo's mother died of congestive heart failure on Dec. 27 at age 86. He leaves behind friends and family with numerous colorful stories about his life, some of which have been written about previously and others of which were shared in tweets to the Wisconsin men's basketball account on Friday.

There was the time Butch fell getting off the Wisconsin team bus during the 2002 NCAA tournament, only to get up and declare without hesitation, "Don’t worry. I won World War II."

Or the day Wisconsin upset seventh-ranked Illinois at the Kohl Center during the 2001-02 season, and Butch chose not to celebrate from his seat, running onto the floor to join the Badgers at mid-court.

Or the night when rapper M.C. Hammer saw Butch dancing at the 1993 Final Four and invited him to appear at one of his concerts in the future.

One of the areas Butch differed from Bo was his loquaciousness. The elder Ryan annually drew a crowd when he told stories in his hotel lobby at the Final Four, which contributed to the outpouring of condolences from the basketball community on Friday.

"A clear definition of a father and son best friendship was Butch and Bo Ryan," Indiana coach Tom Crean tweeted. "The love, respect and true admiration those [two] had was special. I [first] heard Bo speak at a Banquet in 93 and the way he spoke of his dad was something I remember to this day. Butch Ryan will be missed."

Added Xavier coach Chris Mack, "Thoughts and prayers go out to Coach Bo Ryan of the Wisconsin Badgers on the passing of his dad. Inseparable at most Final Fours."

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